04 - Ebb and Flow

19 – Incoming

‘There’s one rather significant piece of new business I’d like to start with,’ Ryan said. ‘If you’re fine to start there.’

Curt settled his folders, laid his Agency phone within easy grasp of his right hand, and then nodded. 

Even working from a still-limited experience pool, it wasn’t unusual for Ryan to start a meeting with something that hadn’t been on the anticipated schedule – though mostly it was usually just chatter from the Outposts, which made it something that essentially passed as their version of “casual” conversation, as being anything other than one-hundred-and-ten per cent professional in Ryan’s presence was still a mammoth task.

Chatter from the rest of the network though, usually didn’t come with the designation of “significant”. 

A lot of what they covered in these meetings was becoming close to rote, which was a good sign for their agent-agent working relationship. A good agent shouldn’t spring too many curveballs on their aide, and in turn, their aide should be adaptable enough to deal with whatever arose.

Ryan looked slightly awkward for a moment, an expression he seemed to be allowing himself to show around Curt more often. And he had to take it as a good sign, it meant Ryan was becoming more comfortable around him, which had to mean he was doing a good job.

He still couldn’t look at the- At the man without feeling his head going through plaster, but…it felt like perhaps it would fade, and that Petersen would go back to being the only boogeyman that haunted the edges of his mind. 

He’d forgiven, but it was hard to make his instincts forget. 

‘This isn’t anything you don’t know,’ Ryan said, ‘and I’m sure at least you’ve had indications that it’s why you yourself have a place here-’

‘Agent Clarke makes you take in waifs and strays to bolster our reputation as helpful, and for favours to be claimed later.’

‘Encourages, not “makes”,’ Ryan corrected mildly, ‘but otherwise, entirely correct.’

Transfers and new recruits in and of themselves weren’t usually “start of meeting” important business unless it was a quiet week. 

Someone, to use Ryan’s word, “significant” enough to be brought up at the start of a meeting indicated that this probably wasn’t just taking on someone with some behavioural issues, or a less-than-stellar track record that needed a new job.

‘Ex-Solstice?’ he ventured.

‘No,’ Ryan said, ‘and while Recruit Kendall has had dealings with them, they’re far from the reason for his move.’

‘All right, sir, tell me.’

Stymied by the occasional “unfortunately, that’s above your security clearance” and apologies for not being able to give more detail on certain aspects, Ryan wove a sad story of a recruit who had run afoul of a rogue director, and was now living as an amnesiac.

‘But he’s still functional as a recruit?’ he asked. ‘I know people who lose their memories don’t necessarily lose language and-’

A nod from Ryan. ‘There are various types of memory, in Kendall’s case, essentially he’s retained…information, but lost memories. He could recall the plot of a film, not remember watching it. He knows his recruit procedures, even if doesn’t remember being taught them.’

‘Is it too early to ask for a file? I’d like a leg-up on getting to know him before he arrives.’

Ryan pulled a rather slim folder from his pile, and with all the redacted information, slim made sense. 

‘How’s his field score?’ Curt asked as he flipped open the file, his eyes immediately going to the picture of the grey-eyed recruit at the top of the file. 

‘A tenth of a per cent higher than yours, Aide.’

Immediately, he wanted to make himself smaller for the rebuke, and- As he moved, he saw the light shine on the pen Stef had given him to celebrate his official appointment as aide and- 

And it wasn’t a rebuke. The tone was light, almost playful. 

He grabbed the pen, and pressed his finger into the slide, into the spot where the engraving had become a long series of question marks, meaning that Stef likely had something on her mind that he’d have to deal with later. 

He met Ryan’s gaze and, a little shakily, returned the director’s smile. 

‘His Combat score is also pretty high, are you sure Mags isn’t going to snipe him away from us?’

‘If you could, as I know you two get along well, could you try and discourage her from officially stealing him away? The Regional Director has put Kendall’s welfare in my hands, so it would be ideal if he’s under my direct authority, at least for his first few months here.’

Considering where his face had been earlier that day, “well’ was somewhat of an understatement. 

Combat was in a decent position at the moment, second only to Tech in how well-staffed they were, so Magnolia didn’t have a pressing need to necessarily steal transfers and new recruits, but she had engaged in bidding wars before when talented people had joined Queen Street.

Hewitt was the example that always came to mind, even though it had been before his time. A transfer, like the incoming Kendall, Hewitt had scored almost evenly in both Tech and Combat, both areas he’d worked in before, so it had become a contest between Mags and Jones as to who would claim the recruit. 

Mags had eventually won, though Jones had reserved – and exercised – the right to borrow Hewitt on occasion when a project or mission needed some Combat power. 

His next question stalled, as it wasn’t a situation that he’d ever had to deal with before. And while it was almost a wonderful problem to have, it still needed to be voiced.

His first few weeks in Brisbane had been a blur. Farnshaw’s memory meddling had given him a small helping hand in processing – or not processing – Petersen’s hospitality. Two’s meds had taken that helping hand, and bumped it along a little with drugs that let him sleep, even if they didn’t take the nightmares away. 

And after he’d finally come out of…what could generously be called “fight or flight” if you accepted that fight, flight, or freeze, Petersen had always gotten his way, he’d turned all his conscious thoughts and will towards being the best, most competent, most indispensable recruit Ryan had ever seen.

If only so he’d live another day. Be able to breathe another hour. Go one more minute without-

He made himself put down the pen and folded his hands in his lap so that Ryan didn’t see where he’d embossed Stef’s message-via-engraving into his skin. 

And Ryan, even early in those early days, had noticed his eagerness, his willingness to go the extra mile that other recruits wouldn’t, take on the shit jobs, the unwanted extra work, and to volunteer for anything and everything. 

So, relatively quickly, just a few months in, he’d become Ryan’s go-to for taking newbies through their first few days of their Agency career. In any other Agency, it wouldn’t be something that would have been allowed to fly, as most other Agencies wouldn’t want a recruit’s first impression to be largely handled by someone who had started on the other side of the war. 

It had been something he’d been absolutely and keenly aware of, so had perfected his bright-and-shiny eager recruit act, and gotten the first few days down to a relatively repeatable act, one that got new recruits through the things they absolutely needed to be aware of as they took their first steps, while throwing in maybe a fun thing or two that most other recruits wouldn’t have been able to offer. 

Most other recruits had little to no fairy currency, as it wasn’t something that the Agency gave away without reason. If you had to do a job in Faerie, you could usually get a per diem, which was usually about enough to grab a coffee and lunch at Famous Fry’s, so maybe you’d bring home some small change to throw in a drawer, which would slowly accumulate over time into…enough to buy another coffee or meal at Fry’s. 

Often that was enough for recruits, as not everyone was interested in doing a lot in Faerie, and were more than happy enough to explore what functionally endless required cash – and requiring itself – could do, as well as exploring the limitless opportunities of the sim rooms. 

Some recruits spent all their free time exploring theme parks or attractions in the real world, wanting the authentic experience. Others were happy to take the sim room version, as it meant being able to skip all the lines or ride a dirtbike past mascot characters without gaining the ire of the security guards. 

Some recruits did try and build up a functional amount of fae currency, and techs were really good at doing this, as Jones – from Raz had told him – basically had a jobs board of random tasks that needed to be done that were largely outside the exact job requirements of any of his recruits, or were long-ignored boring tasks that did need to eventually get done, so was happy to bribe his recruits with nominal sums. 

Most recruits didn’t have a Carmichael, and therefore, most recruits didn’t have thousands in fae currencies in their bank account.

He was always sure never to be too ostentatious with how he flaunted this other-planar wealth, with the most expensive thing that recruits saw him with on any sort of regular basis being a flagship Genie phone, but most wouldn’t have been able to recognise that on sight, and he didn’t tend to pull it out unless he was relatively comfortable or felt sure that he wasn’t being observed too carefully.

A trip to breakfast, or a cheap food court lunch, however, didn’t ever raise any eyebrows. The new recruits were new enough not to grasp the economic situation, and by the time they got around to realising that a lot of recruits didn’t have much fae money, they would easily be able to rationalise it away as being something he’d built up over time. 

It also, usually, gave him time to slip away and go to a Rose Room hookup while they explored the Local Court, under the guise of having to do some paperwork, or chat with the Court administration. 

All of this led back to the issue that he’d never had before. 

Pretty much universally, his Field partners would ditch him after a week or so, after chatting to the other recruits and being given the baseless impression that he wasn’t trustworthy, if only on a one-to-one basis. 

Maybe they could believe he was a long-term plant, though from what little he knew – and it truly was “little” as the Agency liked to segregate and gatekeep a lot of information about reformed Solstice from other reformed Solstice, likely to stop them from seeking each other out and rekindling their evil ways. 

But even if he was someone who eventually planned to bomb Queen Street, or murder a meeting of the senior staff or whatever, that didn’t mean that on a day-to-day basis, recruit-to-recruit, he wasn’t at least a valuable resource. 

He was pretty sure that was Ryan’s logic as well, that even as much as the agent didn’t trust him – though maybe they were turning a corner on that – that Ryan had been able to trust his intentions. That hurting one individual recruit would be a waste of a deep-cover mole, so suspicion had never come his way, even when he occasionally dipped into areas of low or no System cover – like the Local Court – with fresh recruits. 

Always and always though, they’d request a new partner, one with a less…grey-listy background, and that was only judged off his cover story Solstice history, the one where he’d been nothing more than a Red-Shirt-nobody who hadn’t done much, and not the much more unfortunate reality of the truth. 

Solstice was Solstice though, and so many recruits, especially new and eager-to-please, eager-to-toe-the-line so they could start their own careers without a blemish, wanted nothing to do with him. 

He’s never had to mentor two recruits at the same time. 

‘Sir, what about Stef? Where should I put my priorities?’

‘I trust you to manage your time,’ Ryan said, ‘as Kendall will be acclimatising to a new country more than a new role, it will be a different kind of induction than you’ve done with other new recruits.’ 

A small smile from Ryan, something that was a lot, lot more common since Newbie had arrived on the scene, something that really spoke to Mags’ opinion – or hope or desire – that things were changing, if only slowly, if only in small ways. 

‘If I’m also reading the updates she’s been giving me correctly,’ Ryan continued, ‘I think she may be splitting her time with Tech for the next few days, so there may not be as much conflict in your schedule as you might think.’

‘When will Kendall be arriving?’

‘That’s essentially at our discretion. Right now, we can request him with fifteen minutes’ notice.’ Curt opened his mouth, but Ryan waved him off. ‘If you’re wondering about jetlag, don’t. One of the things he’ll be doing with his notice will be visiting his Medical team to get an-’ Pause. ‘Adjustment. It’s a simple trick we can do with recruit blue that helps us mitigate circumstances like this. You may wish to go easy on him tomorrow, as there will be some minor lingering effects after a night’s sleep, but he’ll be functional today.’

He was sure that Phoenix Medical would do something proper with adjusting… melatonin or dopamine or neurotransmitters or something in that area to give the recruit another twelve or so hours of function without feeling like his soul was trapped several hours behind.

He was equally sure that if he had to be on secondment to Phoenix, that Two would approach him with a stupidly, comically oversized needle full of energy shots and caffeine, pump it into his arm, and wish that the gods may have mercy on his soul and bowels before flinging him across the planet. 

‘Let’s say an hour after we’re done with this meeting?’ Curt suggested. ‘I won’t need much prep time, but I would like to get a few things tidied before taking on a new recruit.’

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  • Stormy

    She/her Bi nerd, originally from Brisbane, currently in Melbourne.

  • Shade

    Shade has a strange sense of humour. He met Stormy mostly by accident and, shortly after, wedged himself into her world like he'd been there forever. Again, completely by accident. Living in Utah most of his life, he's come to loathe snow, casserole, and traffic, and enjoys gaming, puns, and gaming puns. He intends to take over the world some day, but is, quite frankly, too lazy to do it.

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